Moderate exercise during pregnancy is generally safe if you are healthy and have a normal pregnancy. It can help relieve back pain and promote healthy weight gain. It might even reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes and preeclampsia (high blood pressure and protein in your urine) as well. Still, if you regularly exercised before you became pregnant, you might need to make some changes to make sure your workouts are safe.
Once your baby is here, it can be tough to bounce back and fit workouts into your busy schedule. The upshot is that daily exercise in the postpartum period (6–8 weeks after delivery) has many benefits, including decreased overall fatigue and improved fitness. You’ll feel more motivated too. It might even reduce the onset of depression, as long as the exercise relieves your stress rather than causes it.
You might be concerned that exercise could decrease your milk supply. However, women who work out regularly, stay hydrated, and eat enough to meet their calorie needs continue to produce enough breast milk. Composition of breast milk remains the same with moderate-exercise intensity (about 50–70% of your maximum heart rate), but vigorous exercise (roughly 70–85% of your maximum heart rate) can cause lactic acid to appear in milk, which could affect how well your baby accepts your milk. So, consider nursing your baby before you participate in any intense workouts.
Since everyone recovers differently, returning to physical activity after giving birth depends on the person. Be sure to discuss your exercise habits and plans with your doctor before resuming your regular workout routine.
In the meantime, read HPRC’s “Lifting weights during pregnancy.” And visit the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website to learn more about exercise during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. Stay healthy for you and your baby!
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2002). ACOG committee opinion no. 267: Exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 99(1), 171–173. doi:10.1097/00006250-200201000-00030
Ashrafinia, F., Mirmohammadali, M., Rajabi, H., Kazemnejad, A., Sadeghniiat Haghighi, K., & Amelvalizadeh, M. (2015). Effect of Pilates exercises on postpartum maternal fatigue. Singapore Medical Journal, 56(03), 169–173. doi:10.11622/smedj.2015042
Daley, A. J., Thomas, A., Cooper, H., Fitzpatrick, H., McDonald, C., Moore, H., . . . Deeks, J. J. (2012). Maternal exercise and growth in breastfed infants: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pediatrics, 130(1), 108–114. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2485
Dewey, K. G., & McCrory, M. A. (1994). Effects of dieting and physical activity on pregnancy and lactation. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59(2), 446S–453S. doi:10.1093/ajcn/59.2.446S
Quinn, T. J., & Carey, G. B. (1999). Does exercise intensity or diet influence lactic acid accumulation in breast milk? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 31(1), 105–110. doi:10.1097/00005768-199901000-00017